Saturday, June 09, 2007

Watch Four Eye Monsters for Free!

Four Eyed Monsters was one of last year's best and most innovative films, and now you can watch the whole thing for FREE on Youtube! I highly suggest checking it out, it's only 71 minutes and well worth the time and admission. But catch it soon, it's only gonna be available for one week. Also, be a good sport and sign up for It's free and for each person who signs up, Arin and Susan each get $1 towards paying off their debt. So help these guys out!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Paris In Pictures: New Wave Visions of the Modern City pt. 6

A Modern City

The formal differences between Godard’s approach to modernization in Two or Three Things and Tati’s Mon Oncle are clear: one takes on a lingual, documentary style while the other focuses on visual cues and spatial relations. However, both films feature similarly negative views on modern construction and seem to be of the viewpoint that ‘newer’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘better’. While Godard is preoccupied with the cinema and modernizations effects on language, his assertions that commoditized culture has negatively impacted individualism mirror Tati’s sentiments. Likewise, Tati’s affinity for old time housing and ways of life can be seen in Godard’s demonizing of urban organization and physical growth.

However, neither film is without hope. While Tati’s message may seem bleak, his humor-based approach stands as a silver lining. Likewise, Godard’s playful attempts to render verbal and written language through the cinema act as a call for greater attention to language as a cultural entity. The results are a vision of Paris, a modern city, which is both culturally expanding and aware of its own deficiencies.


Barthes, Roland. “Towards a Semiotics of Cinema: Barthes in interview with Michel Delahaye, Jacques Rivette”. Cahiers du Cinema: The 1960s. Jim Hillier. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1986.

Chion, Michel. The Films of Jacques Tati. New York: Guernica, 1997.
Leutrat, Jean-Louis. “The Power of Language”. The Cinema Alone: Essays on the Work of Jean-Luc Godard. Michael Temple & James S. Williams. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2000.

Makeieff, Macha. Playtime. Notes on Lecture, 4/10/2007.

Ramierz, Francis and Christian Rolot. Mon Oncle: Jacques Tati. Collection Synopsis, no. 16. Paris: Nathan, 1993.

Mon Oncle. Jacques Tati. DVD. Criterion, 2001.

Stam, Robert. French New Wave II. Notes on Lecture, 2/8/2007.

Thiher, Allen. “Postmodern Dilemmas: Godard's Alphaville and Two or Three Things That I Know about Her”. Boundary 2, Vol. 4, No. 3. (Spring, 1976), pp. 947-964.

Two or Three Things I Know About Her. Jean-Luc Godard. VHS. New Yorker Films, 1988.

Revisit: Straw Dogs

An ABC Pictures Release 1971

Directed by: Sam Peckinpah

Writing Credits:

Gordon Williams: (novel "The Siege of Trencher's Farm") (as Gordon M. Williams)

Sreenplay by: David Zelag Goodman and Sam Peckinpah

Plot description: A young American and his English wife come to rural England and face increasingly vicious local harassment.

Upon its release in 1971, director Sam Peckinpah was engulfed by a storm of controversy (what else is new?) surrounding his latest film, Straw Dogs. Peckinpah and his crew were attacked for the vicious and sick scenes of violence and rape that occur in the film. While many claime the scenes were too extreme for audiences, the film is not merely violent without purpose. Straw Dogs centers on David and Amy Sumner (played by Dustin Hoffman and Susan George), and their life in a small rural village in the UK. Sumner is an American mathematician who was given a grant to work in the film's setting, where he has recently overtook his wife's farm and where the couple now lives. In conducting renovations on the house the two are incessantly harassed by a violent collection of brutes who were commissioned to repair their home. Ultimately, the provocations turn to violent action and Amy Sumner is raped by the workers and their home assaulted by the men. David Sumner, ever the reluctant pacifist, is forced to defend his home and the lengths to which he goes are partly what give the film its gritty, extreme violence.

In Straw Dogs, Peckinpah (forever remembered for his unflinching and gruesome depictions of violence) is at the top of his game. What separates the film from his other works such as The Wild Bunch or Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia is that in addition to jarring, blood-soaked physical violence (as expected), the film presents equally disturbing forms of psychological, and psycho-sexual torment. Hoffman plays David Sumner perfectly, summoning his then famous Benjamin Braddock persona from The Graduate, except adding a vicious, demented, and downright schizophrenic twist. Sumner is a reclusive, shy scholar whose reticence to engage in action is clearly established from his very first appearence. However, as the film progresses we see that he and his wife torment each other frequently, generally through verbal stabs and sexualized exchanges. In these exchanges we notice a peculiar agency on both their parts, as though David's shyness is not always sincere - it is in part an act, an attempt to outsmart others by allowing them the ease of assumption. Similarly, Susan George plays Amy with a double-face: In one sense she is the naive sexbot who never graduated from the lecherous gazes she no doubt received as a youngster/to this day. In other scenes, such as one in which she taunts the construction workers by walking topless in her bedroom as a form of revenge on David, she clearly possesses the agency and intelligence that her appearances before David obscure.

The film manages to provide both of these characters, each with seemingly split personalities all while using a setting in which every local townsperson is downright nasty, hateful and violent. What Peckinpah is suggesting with the stereotypical scholar David and the deviant, sexy wife have the capacity for all types of behavior, and as the film progresses David proves that he is in fact no different than the menacing lunatics trying to murder him and his family.

Overall, Straw Dogs is an extremely provocative and compelling film, and careful viewing proves that the criticisms that it is a one dimensional, blood-fest are unfounded. Peckinpah's strengths are in his ability to convey the potential darkness of man, and contextualizing this darkness within an appropriately familiar and quotidian setting. Much like Cronenberg's A History of Violence (only 35 years prior), Peckinpah's film deconstructs audience identification and their notions of "justifiable violence" in a meta-discursive fashion while within the narrative he explores the intricate sexual tensions that exist between man and woman. Straw Dogs is a primal and damn near bestial film both in its story and Peckinpah's signature film aesthetic of harshness and brutality. Peckinpah's shots (filthy and drained of all pleasantness the countryside could provide), disorienting edits and movements (perfectly embodied during Amy's rape flashbacks at a church gathering as well as the break-in scene), and ability to generate both seemingly obvious exploitation and ambiguity in the same breath make this flick a must-see.

- Paul Walker

Monday, June 04, 2007

Revisit: Dark Days

A Picture Farm film 2000

Written and Directed by Marc Singer

Near Penn Station, next to the Amtrak tracks, squatters have been living for years.

This Sundance and Indie Spirit award-winning documentary follows the lives of several squatters as they deal with life in the New York subways. Shot in stunning 16mm black and white, director Marc Singer actually lived with these people for a short time, using them as his crew and his subject matter. The result is an amazing, honest portrait of the hardships homeless people face, a strong representation their tenacity and stubbornness. My only problem with the film is that it ends on such an overtly positive note - each of the characters recieves an apartment through a NYC works programs, but what happens next? I find it hard to believe that each person in the film managed to maintain a working lifestyle. This is one film that is begging for a sequel.


Lionsgate marketing exec and part-time photographer Tim Palen shot the photo as part of an upcoming book titled Guts: The Art of Marketing Horror Films. NYMag says that the book is “a collection of his creepiest work, including a pornographic, absolutely not-safe-for-work portrait of Roth”. The photo is called “Eli Roth Has the Biggest Dick in Hollywood.” The prosthetic was built by K.N.B. Effects, the same effects company that worked on The Chronicles of Narnia and The Island.

from /

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Paris In Pictures: New Wave Visions of the Modern City pt. 5

Godard plays with the idea of consumption and mass culture throughout Two or Three Things. He offers many symbols of culture – magazine covers, famous quotes, novels – but sets them up so that, as signifiers, they offer little meaning. In one scene, Juliette and fellow prostitute Miriam don duffel bags bearing TWA and PAN-AM logos and are forced to parade around naked. In another, two men sit in a cafĂ© compiling sentences out of novels in the hope of composing the ultimate book. Both these scenes exhibit the appropriation of cultural images or objects, but recontextualize them so that all meaning is obscured.

Godard keeps a philosophical dialogue going throughout the film via a non-diegetic voiceover. Considering the narrator’s penchant for the first person, and his lengthy transcendental musings, it’s almost appropriate to assume that it is a surrogate for Godard himself. One scene is particularly telling of this idea: as the camera focuses in on a cup of coffee, the narrator laments his inability to understand objects, and his verbose speech peters out into a verifiable spew of words. It is as if Godard himself is lamenting the way language has been corrupted by culture, rendered ineffective. “To say that the limits of language, of my language, are those of the world, of my world, and that in speaking, I limit the world, I end it” he cries.

If Two or Three Things presents the idea that consumerism has limited man’s ability to communicate, than it also suggests that the modern environment limits man’s ability to connect. As previously stated, construction is depicted in the film as imposing, a dominating force. But already established edifices are given equally biting critiques. “A landscape is like a face”. Towards the end of the film, Godard pans around Juliette’s building complex as she says this phrase. We see that the area is completely enclosed by buildings, each one composed of tiny little boxes, presumably individual apartments. The space is called le grand ensemble, a new form of urban organization implying a certain sense of togetherness, and yet we can only perceive the area in fragments, as each individual who lives there must do as well.

To Be Continued...